June 10, 2017

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Cybercrime Am I Even A Real Victim?

- Nirali Bhatia, Cyber Psychologist [ ]


The author elaborates on the nature of the cyber world and its many pitfalls

#Trolls, #Trolling are the most popular hashtags in cyberspace today. Let’s understand what Trolling is, who these trolls are, and what it does to the one trolled.

“Trolling is an act to make a deliberately offensive or provocative online post/tweet with the aim of upsetting someone or creating unrest in an online group or community by posting off topic messages.”

Users/individuals who love to add fuel to fire or rather fire the fuel are the ones who are likely to become Internet trolls. Internet/cyberspace gives them the perfect ground to get away with the menace they create or the harm they do and also encourages such acts by providing the attention & audience for these acts.

These traits of trolls have been associated to people who have narcissist or psychopath & sadist tendencies. It is your suffering that brings them pleasure. It is the power of hurting someone that drives them.

“I may not even be a real victim but it did hurt” were the words of journalist Dhanya Rajendran, who was victim of an organized trolling attack by fans of Tollywood actor Vijay.

Within a few minutes of her above tweet going live, she was bombarded by vulgar tweets and sexual and death threats. There have been around 45,000 tweets over the following three days and a derogatory hashtag trended on Twitter. The alleged trolls have also dug out her tweets in the past that they say targeted Vijay. Yet she feels she may not be real victim. Why? Just because this happened in cyber space? Just because it’s virtual crime & not real/ physical?

Is making friends his fault? Or is trusting friends his fault? His laptop getting hacked is his fault? He is being bullied & threatened and yet he feels he is not a victim of cybercrime as it’s all in virtual space.

A 26-year-old employee reaches out for help from cyber psychologist to help him fight cyber bullies. Our young man makes friends on social media and uses the latest mediums of technology for communication – chats & video calls. Typical of human nature he is trusting & cannot sense any foul play. One evening after a video call with his new found friend, he says adieu to her as it’s time for him to hit the bed. Next morning he receives a YouTube link from his friend on private chat. When he clicks the link he is shocked to see his own video from last night when he was changing into comfort wear for bed time. What follows next is a note threatening him to pay up ransom else the video link will be shared with all his social media contacts.

“It’s my entire fault. I feel more stupid rather than a real victim. I don’t think I have any control now. I am feeling so suicidal. I can’t share this with anyone. Please help me”, he shares with me in a telephonic session.

Cyberbullying is the fastest-growing form of cybercrime in Internet space. Teenagers and adults are going through life being cyber-bullied and may or may not be aware of this. Most who are aware of what is happening to them feel depressed, miserable, have low self-esteem and a sense of worthlessness.

12-year-old Tanya (name changed) is going for counselling sessions for the last 2 months to build up her self-confidence & work on the fear of attending school. Tanya is another child who is a victim of cyber bullying. One nasty comment by anonymous user on her picture with braces on social media attracted many more unpleasant comments making fun of her physical appearance, intelligence, etiquettes etc., murdering her self-confidence with every like received on such comments. Her parents reported that she started staying indoors, became very irritable & sensitive. She would either cry or yell at a drop of a hat and she was just not ready to go to school. Her parents were unaware of the actual trigger but knew something is bothering her & hence sought professional help.

Cyber-bullies are highly intimidating. They thrive on having an audience. Display of power, vengeance and thrill are some of the reasons why people bully.

India as a country stands 4th in cyberbullying. Also, what is noteworthy is that if one in 10 children has been bullied online, about 50 percent of children are also the cyberbullies. Knowingly or unknowingly, people contribute to bullying in virtual space. Somewhere it’s the feeling of superiority or simply having fun by demeaning someone that leads to such bullying.

As much is the impact of physical harassment, even more is that of the virtual harassment, intent being more or less the same. Given the magnitude of the Internet/cyberspace, the criminal acts are more dreadful & intense. The 3A’s of cyberspace - Anonymity, Authority and Attention - make it very alluring for psychologically sick-minded people to vent or act out their intents. In fact, it also gives a platform to normal people to unleash their dark side & seek pleasure in dark fun.

Cybercrimes like trolling, cyberbullying, hacking are amongst the more common ones.

The list of types of cybercrimes is increasing at a rapid speed along with advancement of technology & its role in our day-to-day lives. Our social lives have spilled over into the virtual space & rather the virtual is taking over the physical or real social scenario.

Let us understand that the damage such crimes can do is humungous and very deep due to the nature of cyberspace. Physical wounds heal faster than mental ones. Firstly, it takes a while for the victim to even realize that he or she is a victim, and thereafter, what to do is not known.

Psychological impact of cyber bullying & trolling is deep, irreversible and sadly invisible too. Be responsible with your words & actions

Stay aware & stay safe is the mantra. Some useful tips to keep you alert & aware while in cyberspace:

  • Cyber world is a world of perceptions. What we perceive is what we believe. So remember it’s all about how we feel & what we think.
  • Avoid using social networking platform whenever in emotional distress. Emotional distress clouds the logical mind and we operate out of impulse & overwhelming feelings (be it of hurt, anger, loneliness etc.)
  • No face, no eye contact makes it easy to speak up & share details as there is no fear of being judged. But it impacts your ability to make good judgments of other people’s intent.
  • Take your time & do a good background check (physical check) before trusting anyone you met in cyber space.
  • Do not update on real-time location. No one besides your family needs to know where you are.
  • Avoid posting pictures of your children. Dark web is the haven of child abusers and pedophiles.
  • All social networking sites have privacy settings. It takes 5-10 minutes to go through them. Invest that time for your own safety.
  • Virtual world is not REAL. Put in efforts to stay connected to real friends.

Lastly, like any physical hurt, mental hurt also needs attention & professional advise. Do not hesitate to seek help.


Disclaimer – The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and are purely informative in nature.


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